Our Podcast Documentary

Essential but Disposable Labour: Migrant Workers Exploited in Canada

Migrant workers are a vital part of Canada. For decades, they have kept Canada’s economy moving by performing essential work. Yet, they are treated as disposable. In this eight-part podcast documentary, we hear from migrant workers, in their own words, about the conditions they face in Canada.  

Migrant workers, especially those funneled through the Temporary Foreign Workers Program, are denied the basic freedoms that Canadians have and value. They are excluded from freely changing employers or reuniting with their families.

In our documentary, migrant workers, policy experts, and service providers share insights and experiences on what’s wrong with Canada’s immigration system, and what we can do to fix it.

Our documentary host is Sarah Guinta, Director, Office of Justice and Peace, Diocese of Hamilton.

Our theme music is Whir, by Bio Unit. This podcast is funded by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto.

Listen to Our Trailer

A two minute introduction to our documentary.

Chapter 1: Denied by Design

Gabriel Allahdua, an activist, author, and former agricultural migrant worker, joins host Sarah Guinta to discuss the racism of Canadian immigration policies that deny the humanity of migrant workers. In the face of these challenges, migrant workers are organizing and resisting, working for systemic change.

Chapter 1 Transcript [PDF]

Harvesting Freedom

Gabriel’s book Harvesting Freedom can be ordered by clicking here or from other bookstores.


Open Work Permits Now Campaign

Regularization campaign



Justicia for Migrant Workers

Chapter 2: The Permanence of Temporariness

Fay Faraday discusses with Sarah Guinta the racism interwoven into the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, one of the several Labour Migration Programs allowing workers worldwide to be hired by Canadian employers. Touching on the history of the TFWP and Canadian immigration laws, Fay highlights how racist and unjust policies legislate migrant workers into exploitation.

Chapter 2 Transcript [PDF]


Support the work and actions of the Migrant Rights Network.

Fay Faraday is a human rights lawyer and associate professor at Osgoode Hall. She has written extensively on the precarious conditions created and perpetuated by Canadian policy, notably the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. Some of her research work can be found here.

Chapter 3: Packing Hope in a Bag

Elizabeth and Jesson Reyes from the Migrant Resource Centre Canada and Migrante Ontario join Sarah Guinta to share the story of migrants leaving their families and communities behind in order to survive. This installment focuses on the Philippines and the economic and political situation pushing people to migrate. It also highlights Canada’s role in this displacement and human suffering.

Chapter 3 Transcript [PDF]

Chapter 4: High Hopes and Shattered Lives

Sarah Guinta is joined by Alvaro, a former migrant worker from Mexico. Alvaro shares his experiences working in a greenhouse in Leamington, Ontario. He also delves into the complex situation in his home country, and the impact of separation from his family and community.

Chapter 4 Transcript [PDF]

Chapter 5: Working Hard and Abandoned

Sarah Guinta hears from Jim, a migrant worker from the Caribbean. Jim shares his experience living and working on different farms in Canada. Jim experienced a high level of abuse and was granted a Temporary Resident Permit for a few years and denied a subsequent renewal which would have allowed him to apply for permanent residency in Canada. With no option to return home, Jim feels abandoned by Canada. He says: “They let us down a great deal. I am speaking on behalf of all the others in situations like that.”

Chapter 5 Transcript [PDF]


Temporary Resident Permit: Click here to learn what is it and how inconsistencies of this policy leave migrants like Jim with no options for redress.

FCJ Refugee Centre: Click here to visit them online.

Chapter 6: Dead Ends

Shelley Gilbert (Legal Assistance Windsor) and Hannah Deegan (Associations for the Rights of Household and Farmworkers) speak with Sarah Guinta about the available remedies to workers who have experienced abuse and exploitation. While some options are available, all lead to precarity and have potential for further exploitation.

Chapter 6 Transcript [PDF]

Employment Protection for Foreign Nationals Act

Click here for Government of Ontario information about the act.

Profiting from the Precarious – How recruitment practices exploit migrant workers, by Fay Faraday, 2014: While this research paper is from 2014, many of the issues related to the recruitment practices have not changed. Click here to read it.

Open Work Permit for Vulnerable Workers

Click here to read the Open Work Permit policy.

Band-Aid on a Bullet Wound—Canada’s Open Work Permit for Vulnerable Workers Policy, an analysis by Depatie-Pelletier, Eugénie, Hannah Deegan, and Katherine Berze, 2022. Click here to read it.

A Promise of Protection? An assessment of IRCC decision-making under the VWOWP program, Amanda Aziz, Migrant Workers Centre, 2022. Click here to read it.

Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program Policy

Click here to read the program policy.

COVID-19 Outbreaks in Canada and the Crisis of Migrant Farmworkers’ Social Reproduction: Transnational Labour and the Need for Greater Accountability Among Receiving States, Vosko, L.F., Spring, C, 2022: Click here to read this analysis of the policy.

Unheeded Warnings: COVID-19 & Migrant Workers in Canada, Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, 2020: Click here to read it.

Temporary Residence Permit Policy

Click here to read the policy.

Temporary Resident Permits: Limits to protection for trafficked persons, Canadian Council for Refugees.

Click here to read this analysis.

Canada’s Caregiver Program

Click here to read about it the program.

An intersectional pathway penalty: Filipina immigrant women inside and outside Canada’s Live-In Caregiver Program. Naomi Lightman, Rupa Banerjee, Ethel Tungohan, Conely de Leon, Philip Kelly, 2021: Click here to read this analysis.

Caregivers Action Centre

Immigration Refugee Protection Act

Quebec Labor Board

Some solutions suggested by the speakers:

Regularization: Status for All campaign of Migrant Rights Network-

Abolishment of the closed work permit system: Open Work Permits NOW Campaign

Chapter 7: How Housing Affects Health

In this seventh chapter of our eight-part podcast documentary, Sarah Guinta speaks with Dr. Susana Caxaj about housing for migrant farm workers, and the barriers, pathways, and mechanisms that shape their health and social well-being.

Susana is Assistant Professor at the School of Nursing, University of Western Ontario.

Trigger warning: This chapter contains content and themes that may be challenging for some to hear. This includes experiences of abuse, exploitation, and racism. These sensitive topics may not be suited for everyone.

Chapter 7 Transcript [PDF]

Susana Caxaj, PhD at UWO.ca: Her publications and projects at the University of Western Ontario.

Migrant Rights Network: Status For All: A migrant-led movement to win full and permanent immigration status for all migrants.

Chapter 8: Quality of Life (Finale)

In this final chapter of our eight-part podcast documentary, host Sarah Guinta and producer Leah Watkiss look back on the discussions with migrant workers, policy experts, and service providers.

They discuss common factors in quality of life for migrant workers, how these essential workers contribute so much to Canada, why employers shouldn’t control employee housing & health care, and what Canadians can do to change this system.

Chapter 8 Transcript [PDF]

Land Acknowledgment

Tkaronto has been a home to many nations since time immemorial. These include the Huron-Wendat and Petun First Nations, the Seneca, and the Mississaugas of the Credit.

These nations were harmed by the arrival of European settlers who have systematically tried to erase these Indigenous communities and their teachings.

Colonialism and racism are deeply entrenched in the Canadian state. Collaborative Network to End Exploitation strives to decolonize our work and make a positive contribution to the reconciliation process.

Labour Acknowledgment

We acknowledge the labour and sacrifices of poor and racialized workers on the lands known as Canada. This nation’s settler colonial history includes, among others, the exploited labour of:

  • Over 200 years of enslaved African and Indigenous peoples.
  • Chinese workers forced to pay a head tax to come and perform work considered too dangerous for Canadian workers. 
  • Agricultural and other migrant workers indentured to their employers with closed-work permits.

These and other violent practices allowed Canada to accumulate wealth and power. Canada continues to profit from the historic and ongoing exploitation of poor and racialized people. CNEE is committed to redressing this legacy.